It can be really hard to take dance classes when your ‘studio’ is your sitting room, bedroom, kitchen or (lucky you) garden. Some people stop physical classes altogether, others turn to those that focus on conditioning and fitness. Yet there are many online dance classes, and more and more participants are learning that geography has become, well, history: nowadays, time zone seems more of a limit than geolocation.
We asked our Springback contributors about their experiences of online dance classes, and what works (or doesn’t) through the medium of the screen. Below is a selection of their responses.
A sure-fire hit among lockdown dance classes has been Batsheva’s ‘Gaga Online’: more than 14,000 participants and 200,000 euros collected to support the teachers (with no other income at that time). Its success was not due to solidarity or to the nonexistence of geographical boundaries, but to the dance language itself. Ohad Naharin created his Gaga technique in the early 2000s, and it turned out to be the perfect match for online sessions.
In these classes all the instructions are oral, so participants don’t have to look to the screen all the time to follow the dynamics. It’s possible to listen, eyes closed, and dance through the images to wake up our body awareness and connect with our own movement from the sensation, not the shape. This allows everyone to attend these classes. Some lessons are even designed to be taken sitting in a chair. No experience or space requirements, just imagination.
Galen Hooks is among the world’s most prolific commercial choreographers, with credits including Justin Bieber, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Usher, Ne-Yo and John Legend. Her online classes offer dancers of all levels a rare professional glimpse into the hard-earned skillset that makes for dancers who can perform with rigour and consistency across different situations and styles.
The classes are of two types: choreography routines optimised for exploring your personal approach, and thematic lectures such as ‘How to Retain Choreography’ and ‘How to Use Your Face’. Instead of just teaching movement, Hooks offers specific strategies for more embodied learning, connecting emotion to performance and monitoring when our thoughts get in the way. While her choreography challenges you with specific details and precise timing, it still holds space to fill in with your own lived experiences. This type of nuanced learning and experimenting is perfect for the intimate setting that online classes offer.
Take the floor
I first discovered Mathilde Gilhet on Instagram, where she shares daily videos showcasing her distinct floorwork moves with quirky names, like The Bionic Jellyfish and Butt Wiggling Pounce. In her online floorwork/contemporary dance class she gives detailed tutorials of some of those moves and frames them into longer dance sequences. The class is lots of fun, thoroughly technical, high energy and low cost. Although the class does not happen on a regular basis and is attended by hundreds worldwide each time, Gilhet manages to create a sense of community and continuity through Instagram, where she reposts daily stories by class participants trying out her tricks. There is another notable aspect of the WE class: All proceedings from each class go towards funding an artistic project by an emerging mover, selected through an open call.